7 May 2013
Dennis Kwok regrets the Legal Aid Services Council’s
latest recommendations on the Independence of Legal Aid
The Legal Aid Services Council (LASC), tasked with a statutory duty to advise the Chief Executive on the feasibility and desirability of the establishment of an independent legal aid authority (ILAA) and having committed to review the issue in late 2011/early 2012, finally submitted its latest recommendations to the Chief Executive late last month. Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok acknowledges the LASC’s recommendation to reposition the Legal Aid Department (LAD) so that it would be directly accountable to the Chief Secretary for Administration as correcting the previous Administration’s mistake in transferring the Department to the Home Affairs Bureau in 2007. At the same time, Dennis Kwok is very disappointed that the Council found “no immediate need” to establish an ILAA. Having formally recommended the establishment of an ILAA back in 1998, the LASC failed to provide strong reasons to explain why its latest recommendations are different from those made previously. Dennis Kwok points out that both the Law Society and the Bar Association have repeatedly called for the immediate establishment of an ILAA in order to improve access to legal aid services as well as to remove the conflict of interests involved in having a Government department administer legal aid to those who intend to challenge major government decisions and policies. Dennis Kwok believes that the LASC’s recommendations would become the Government’s latest excuse to resist such calls.
Dennis Kwok has sent a letter to the Chairperson of the Legislative Council Administrative of Justice and Legal Services Panel, urging the Chairperson to call a special meeting on the independence of legal aid and invite members of the LASC, LAD, the legal profession and other relevant organizations to share their opinions on the matter.